By MAXINE BROWN
REMEMBRANCE Day is a special occasion on the busy calendar of Joondalup’s Vetter family.
The Vetters are dad Eddie and mum Paula, as well as, daughter Alicia, 11, and son Andrew, 9. Between Eddie’s work with an oil-and-gas company, Paula’s dual-employment in the Reserves and her civilian consultancy, along with the kids’ schooling and extracurricular activities, life can get hectic.
On Remembrance Day, November 11, despite being separated by work and school commitments, the family will unite in spirit when stopping at 11am to dedicate a minute’s silence to the fallen.
This shared and unspoken bond while paying silent tribute to the brave speaks to the very essence of this exceptionally generous family.
After all, it stands as a testament to the 20 years Eddie served in the Army, 19 full-time, with another 12 months given to the Army Reserves; and the 18 years that Paula so freely gave in full-time service to our country. Paula too, transitioned out of the regular Army – after becoming a mum the second time – but is still very much active within the Reserves, where she is in her seventh year of Reserve service.
The pair, who both deployed to East Timor at the peak of INTERFET 20 years ago, learnt to accept the many sacrifices that must be made in service to country at an early age.
Country first, everything else second, is what the broader community doesn’t understand about a life given to defending Australia. And for families such as the Vetter’s, those sacrifices were made willingly … they just had to juggle a lot, with loads of positive communication.
Paula explains: “We have both deployed to East Timor. I deployed during INTERFET and on return Eddie deployed for six months. And then he came back, and I went again! So, I think within two years we saw each other for six months! Then there’s the numerous courses and field activities along-side business as usual.’’
Business as usual also means pulling up stumps many times to move, sometimes to a position you’ve not necessarily chosen for yourself. The Vetter’s have had 17 moves in their time together (which is not a lot, in military terms).
“Eddie belongs to the Royal Australian Mechanical Engineers (RAEME) as an Engineer and I belong to the Royal Australian Army Medical Corp (RAAMC) as a General Service Officer. We’ve been everywhere from Townsville, Canberra, Albury, Melbourne, Bendigo and now Perth’’ Paula says.
“We have always been collocated with our postings of which we are very grateful for. However, there can be some hidden stress behind the conversations required when posting conversations commence. There were times that we nearly had unaccompanied postings, which was not our preference. We have been very fortunate and always been co-located.’’
“Sometimes in a partnership somebody’s got to take and somebody’s got to give in terms of preference of jobs. It’s just having a conversation and comes down to service need and our individual job preferences.
Outside of logistics, parenthood also comes with a unique set of challenges. For first-time mums, the traditional family support network is usually replaced by the new military family, especially for those on deployment or an interstate posting.
“Alicia was born in 2007, whilst I was posted to a very demanding Townsville based health unit role” Paula says. “I consider the pregnancy was challenging and certainly not the norm; however, it was delight to find out I was pregnant when away on a military course.
“We’ve never had family support at posting locations. But we have had each other and a few trusted family friends. You really do rely on your friends and your Defence network / friends.
“To this day we can always reach back to people we may not have spoken to for years and you pick up where you left off … and that’s your network it truly is a great feeling! This is our extended family! Which is important, particularly with those you may have been deployed with, away on course with, you get to know these people inside-out.”
Today, Eddie and I rise to the challenge of work and family whilst raising a beautiful young family, instilling strong values in our kids and building their respect for the flag and history, nurturing their musical and sporting abilities, and enjoying their newfound freedom.
For the rest of us, it’s a beautiful reminder that we enjoy those same freedoms because Australia’s unsung hero families have given so much without complaint …. families just like the Vetter’s.
*RSLWA has been providing support services for Veterans and their families for more than 100 years, most recently through our Help Our Heroes campaign.